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Deeper partnership possibilities

By Marites N. Sison, staff writer on June, 09 2010

U.S. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
Photo: Art Babych

U.S. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told members of General Synod that The Episcopal Church is eager to deepen its partnership with the Anglican Church of Canada, noting how the two churches have “common roots and history.” 

Episcopalians are “deeply grateful for our friends north of the border,” said Bishop Jefferts Schori addressing the 2010 General Synod meeting here. “We’re eager for what you can teach us out of your experience, and we’re energized about the possibilities for increased mission partnership.”

Bishop Jefferts Schori said that as both churches look to the future, “there are significant ways in which our two churches might partner and learn from each other.” She cited as examples ministries in native and indigenous communities as well as in new populations, partnerships around “new forms of leadership development, especially around shared ministry (and) local common ministry.” 

The Canadian and American churches can be “significant advocates for indigenous peoples together,” she later explained in a press conference. “The work that you’ve done with First Nations people, I think, is in a different stage than the work that we’re doing in the U.S.…The Episcopal Church has not really yet begun to address indigenous communities in Latin America.” She added that the Anglican Indigenous Network hasn’t really engaged indigenous Anglicans beyond Canada, the U.S., Australia and Hawaii. “There are some whose concerns aren’t on the radar screen of the rest of the Communion.”

Anglicans and Episcopalians also have “a singular opportunity in our Full Communion relationship with Lutheran churches, an opportunity that we, as The Episcopal Church, really have only begun to explore,” Bishop Jefferts Schori added. “There are potentially similar opportunities with Moravians and for you, with the United Church.” 

Together, both churches “have the ability to speak truth to power,” said Bishop Jefferts Schori, citing advocacy work with the U.S. and Canadian governments about issues around migration, labour and trade policy across the Americas. “The context that we share in North America means that common conversation and action around the challenges of our day could be greatly strengthened by partnership,” said Bishop Jefferts Schori. “Our common voices and varied context will enrich dialogue about ethics and biotechnology, energy-—whether it’s the Gulf oil spill or Canadian tar sands-—human sexuality and anthropology, preserving the language, culture and life ways of the indigenous peoples… global warming and climate change…”
The presence at General Synod of the bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, “is a vital example of how much global peacemaking needs us all,” she added. 

In her 20-minute speech that was twice interrupted by applause, Bishop Jefferts Schori gave a picture of what The Episcopal Church is and noted similarities that exist between the U.S. and Canadian churches. 

“The baptismal covenant that our churches have shared in recent decades has increasingly roused us toward mission,” she noted. “Our two churches share common roots and history in addition to the theologies that have developed from our liturgical reforms.”

She noted that the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island is celebrating 300 years of continuing Anglican worship, while The Episcopal Church celebrated 400 years of continuous worship in the Atlantic coast of Virginia. 

She noted how lay leadership became “essential and vital” and how women took significant leadership roles during the colonial period when the Church of England “largely ignored us.” She said that “the history of lay leadership and the development of democratic national ecclesiastical polity has continued to shape The Episcopal Church and in many ways, the church in Canada.”

Bishop Jefferts Schori noted how Canadian Anglicans have often “provided shelter to those fleeing our wars,” including Native Americans, slaves and the conscientious objectors of the Vietnam war era.

“Our histories have continued to be intertwined. We’ve had quite a lot of consensual border crossing,” she said, which drew laughter and applause from members. (Both Canadian and American churches have complained of cross-border interventions from other provinces of the Anglican Communion unhappy with the more liberal views expressed on the issue of human sexuality.) 

Bishop Jefferts Schori talked about how developing congregations and “awareness of mission” is a priority for The Episcopal Church. Much of overseas mission work is shaped by the (U.N.) Millennium Development Goals, she said. Domestically, it is involved in initiatives addressing poverty. 

She also noted that Episcopalians are “beginning to move beyond buildings” and are “beginning to learn new ways of accompaniment and solidarity.” 

In a press conference held after her speech, Bishop Jefferts Schori said Episcopal dioceses whose bishops have left the Episcopal Church and who previously had been excluded from their former buildings “have discovered the freedom…of not being tied to a particular place.” She added: “They would love to go back to their historic buildings, don’t get me wrong, but they’ve discovered something about lightness of being in the interim that has been important.” 

Those who are not tied to a particular location also discover something important about how community gathers on the road, she said. “When Jesus said the Son of Man has no place to lay his head, there’s an important teaching in that. We get so attached to our favourite pew that we can’t see God except through that particular perspective. When we move across the room or down to the local coffee shop or out to the athletic field to gather for worship we discover something different.” 

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said that Bishop Jefferts Schori “opened for us a picture of The Episcopal Church–its diversity, commitment to God’s mission and its place in the Anglican Communion.” He said that he was “holding out the possibilities for deeper partnership” between the Canadian and American churches. 

Archbishop Hiltz said Canadian Anglicans “value and cherish” their relationship with Episcopalians. The Episcopal Church “has walked alongside us through some difficult times,” he said. When General Synod almost went bankrupt following lawsuits over Indian residential schools, The Episcopal Church donated a gift of $100,000. “We’ve not forgotten that gesture,” said Archbishop Hiltz. 

Anglicans and Episcopalians also share a common mission. Archbishop Hiltz noted that the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund and the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) are currently working closely on relief and rehabilitation efforts in earthquake-damaged Haiti, where more than 200,000 have died, and where much of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti’s infrastructure has been damaged. 

“We are immensely grateful to your church for the $2 million raised for the relief and reconstruction efforts in Haiti and the people of Haiti. Thank you,” said Bishop Jefferts Schori. 

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June, 09 2010
Categories:  News|Special Report

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